Weather Window!

scraps of life in Neah Bay
scraps of life in Neah Bay; a washboard and genuine hardtack!

Lovely and quiet as life in this tiny, remote coastal fishing village has been, after eleven days it’s somewhat of a relief to finally pack up the boat and prepare to leave Neah Bay for the open ocean. The NOAA weather forecasts for the next few days show a favourable window, with the gale-force southerly winds that we’ve been experiencing for the past week subsiding and slowly giving way to gentle northwesterlies, which combined with the dominant currents should give us a safe and quick offshore passage south to San Francisco. We have enjoyed it here, but we’re looking forward to being back in an anchorage with easy access to more modern amenities than a rustic general store – and somehow nobody managed to mention the fact that Neah Bay is a “dry community” in any of the cruising guides! I can’t wait to have a frosty pint at a yacht club bar in SF.

The sprocket for the steering system came in with unbelievable swiftness – funny how parts shipped from the US to Canada always seem to take a few extra days, while shipping this hunk of metal from Canada to the US took less than twenty hours from the confirmation email! With the help of our new local diver/fisherman/handyman friend Daren Akin, we had the sprocket cut to fit and installed in a matter of hours, and since then the steering has been working far smoother than before.

howling winds in the anchorage
howling southerly winds, all day every day

The weather has been the most stressful part about living in Neah Bay; the return of predominantly northwest winds comes as a huge relief as we wondered whether or not we’d missed our window to head offshore this year at all. For the past few days the winds have been howling day and night – during the day we seem to get gusty winds in bursts of about a half-hour of 25kn winds every two hours, but after dark the winds have been rising to much higher. Strangely, it seems like the only time we’ve seen really strong winds – 35kn-40kn – has been at 4am… for three days in a row now.

I’ve been trying a new technique; anchoring from the stern instead of the bows. The benefit is that the TIE Fighter tends to swing less at anchor, less “sailing” far to the left and right with the wind – but I can’t really take credit for that. The real reason is that I installed the fancy Wi-Fi antenna to the side of the aft cabin, and apparently once the cabin sides are wet from rain there’s no passing a Wi-Fi signal through them. We have to have the boat faced to present the Wi-Fi antenna at the marina a kilometer or so away if we want a signal!

The downside of this stern-anchoring trick is that I have never had to handle a dragging anchor from the stern before – the engine starts just fine, but with an anchor line off the back I would have to be very careful not to back over the line; in an anchor-dragging situation, wrapping a line around the propellor shaft could be disastrous! Combined with the howling winds and rains and utter darkness of the night, I’ve had a rough time sleeping, even with the anchor-drag alarm set on the Garmin GPSMap76cx on the pillow beside my head. I’ve left a second anchor rigged on deck, ready to throw over the side at the first sign of dragging – but to my surprise and relief, the Fortress FX-37 anchor has held through the worst of it, without giving a meter!

Miya trying to bring in a ling cod
Miya trying to bring in a ling cod

We’ve taken advantage of the few days of the fall sun non-rain of the Pacific Northwest to relax, nail down some final boat-readyness projects (at least one project is now literally nailed down) and to explore the areaaround Neah Bay. Yesterday we hiked the little island that marks the entrance to the anchorage and explored a huge, partially submerged barge at the western end of the bay.

Mostly though, we’ve been working through stresses, finding our centers and getting our heads ready for the upcoming step; arguably the biggest step we’ve made so far.

Tomorrow we leave offshore. Within the next ten days, we’ll arrive in San Francisco.